Mahashivratri 2024: Chef Nishant Choubey On Easy Fasting Tips

The concept of fasting, be it ritualistic, spiritual or wellness-driven has always been linked to the idea of detoxifying the body and mind. While it’s widely believed that most worshippers and devotees observe a Shivratri fast as a sign of devotion, it’s also important to note that fasting offers a sense of control over one’s own body's natural processes. Yogic philosophy also agrees that those who fast during the period of Shivratri for Lord Shiva are likely to experience detoxification or spiritual cleansing which can bolster their commitment to their divine self, and hence, with divinity.

“The whole chakra of fasting has a positive impact on our body for it awakens every element in the body,” shares Chef Nishant Choubey, who’s an expert at Vedic cuisine and sattvik food. Choubey, who’s the consulting chef at the popular Delhi restaurant Sattvik further broke down why fasting has been so key for us.

“According to Ayurveda fasting increases digestive fire and causes digestion of Ama Dosha (metabolic toxins). Fasting prepares you mentally, so make sure you do not take it negatively. For beginners, it’s important to be at home only when fasting to avoid any hurdles. Don’t break fast with a feast as it might leave you bloated and tired. One should for sure break a fast after 24 hours. However, you must break your fasting if you don’t feel good,” Choubey shares. 

In an insightful chat, Chef Choubey took some time to break down some ingredients which can help those who are new to fasting and also shared the merits of a sattvik diet. Excerpts:

Do you have any pointers that can make fasting easier for beginners or people who have never fasted for Shivratri before?

Fasting will be easy for beginners if they decide with a shorter period to start with. Meditation will also energise the whole body and add positivity, so keep meditating along with chanting during fasting periods! Don’t break the fast with a feast as it might leave you bloated and tired. However, you must break your fasting if you don’t feel good.

Some ingredients which can help people during Shivratri fasting, especially if they’re trying to keep their energy levels up?

People can go for sabudana curry, fruit salad, sweet potato chat, makhana, dry fruits and cranberries etc. Toss Makhana in ghee and keep it with you throughout the day. Consider seasonal fruits; eat more watermelon as it will keep the system hydrated. You can keep boiled sweet potatoes handy and make chutneys and convert them into chat. Samak ka kheer is also a good option.

People are now more curious about Sattvik diet practises. Is there anything you wish beginners would know about this Ayurveda-backed for of eating?

According to Ayurveda fasting increases digestive fire and causes digestion of Ama Dosha.  An Ayurvedic form of fasting is about leaving refined ingredients behind and eating more seasonal.  No refined salt, no refined sugar, no refined flour as we have enough beyond that to sensitise our tastebuds! You try exploring sendha namak (Himalayan salt), jaggery and samak flour or kuttu flour. Remember moderation is the key so don’t binge in excess as it’s harmful.

What do you think are some of the most underrated ingredients we overlook in a Sattvik diet?

I think saatu is the most underrated ingredient in the Saatvik diet as we don’t talk too much about it in the mainstream segment, although it is a superfood now! Our gourds (bottle gourd, bitter gourd etc) are also neglected as people think it’s too common and delicacies can't be made out of them.  I am trying to work with these ingredients; I recently made bottle gourd dumplings in kuttu curry and it got quite a bit of accolades.

Do you think cleansing diets work? Any ingredients that you think have more potential to flush out toxins?

Yes, it surely works; most detoxification programmes recommend removing highly processed food and some ingredients to which some people are sensitive such as diary, gluten, eggs, meats and nuts!  One can also do KUNJAL to remove the unwanted toxin once in a week for wellness.

Eating more citrus fruits is a fantastic option, melons are the best. Start your day with honey, warm water with some tulsi! Herbs play an integral role in cleansing. Consider quitting teas and alcohol and get into green teas! Excessive salt should be stopped as well. Try eating vegetables like ginger, spinach, pak choy and turmeric which already have salt in them.

Tell us about the ingredients you’re working with currently. Anything our readers would be interested about?

I’m currently working with seabuckthorn (Leh berry); it’s super amazing and has a sweetness and sourness, and it fills in RASA that I look for in food. And it’s an Indian ingredient so it has less carbon food print and is highly nutritious! A new restaurant in Bangalaore, MEZZERA, and RANI in New York will feature it (as part of their menu). I am working with Jaya Mishra (of Desi Utpad), Meenu Nageshwaran (of The Earth Collective), Ariellia Blank (of Atmosphere Kombucha) for clean kombuchas and several others who believe in the philosophy of clean food and clean environment.